Missing, expiring prepaid load? Irked by rash of complaints, Poe leads Sept. 13 probe of telcos

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Grace Poe
Senator Grace Poe at a Senate legislative inquiry. Photographed by Avito Dalan, PNA.

MANILA – Consumer complaints on the “vanishing prepaid cellphone load” and related issues have prompted Sen. Grace Poe to conduct a Senate inquiry.

Poe, chairperson of the Senate committee on public services, will conduct a hearing on Wednesday, Sep. 13, on Senate Bill No. 848 or the proposed Prepaid Load Protection Act, which prohibits telecommunication companies from imposing an expiration period on the validity of prepaid and the forfeiture of load credits.

The hearing will be held at 11 a.m. at Tañada Room, Senate of the Philippines.

Matagal nang reklamo ng ating mga kababayan ang naglalahong load kahit hindi naman nila ginagamit [Our people have long complained of cell phone loads vanishing even when they’re not using them],” Poe said.

“Kailangang mabigyan sila ng proteksyon dahil hindi biro ang perang pinambibili nila ng load para makausap ang kanilang mga mahal sa buhay [They deserve protection, because they spend hard-earned money just to be able to talk to loved ones],” she added.

Representatives from the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC), telcos Globe and Smart and various consumer groups will be invited to the public hearing.

The measure, authored by Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto, imposes penalties against telcos that include a fine of up to P1 million, and revocation of license, among others, if they commit any of the following:

• Impose an expiration period on the validity of unused prepaid call and text cards;
• Forfeit load credits stored on an active prepaid phone account via prepaid call and text card or electronic transfer; and
• Refuse to give a refund to any prepaid subscriber whose load credits were forfeited without any valid cause.

Poe said the proposed legislation should deter telcos from unduly imposing additional burden on their subscribers.

She said the NTC should also broaden and strengthen its regulatory authority and oversight powers on telcos to protect Filipinos and improve telcos’ services.

The senator said she has received a barrage of complaints about poor telco service and predatory pricing of services on her official social media accounts, and vowed to take action on these.